Magic Millbrook welcomes native birds home

Department of Conservation —  26/01/2023

Golf players will be greeted by native birds at the NZ Open thanks to predator control.

This is the fourth blog in the A-Hole-in-One for Conservation series. 

The Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) goal is working towards an Aotearoa where our native species are safe from extinction and thrive alongside us. This ambitious goal aims to eradicate our three most harmful predators – stoats, rats, and possums – from all of New Zealand. And everyone has a role to play.  

DOC and our region’s golf courses are working together to champion predator control, habitat restoration, and sustainability on golf courses. With 500,000 regular players and clubs across the country, the golfing community is in a unique position to lead local action for our precious native species. Below, we highlight Millbrook as a golf course achieving big wins for nature, communities AND recreation. 

A-Hole-in-One for Conservation: Millbrook Golf Course

After a COVID-induced three-year hiatus, the internationally acclaimed New Zealand Open will return to stunning Millbrook Golf Course in the rugged mountains of Arrowtown.

Players from around with world flock to the event to experience the best of settingsa natural alpine amphitheatre set against the backdrop of the Remarkables Mountain Range. And this year,  players will receive a warm welcome of renewed bird song.

Millbrook aerial shot

Native species thrive on the course

In 2020, course staff used the COVID ‘downtime’ to restore a waterway that runs through the estate to encourage native wildlife back to the area.  With humble beginnings, the restoration project has resulted in an ambitious programme to restore habitat, control invasive predators, and provide habitat for precious native plants and animals.

Placing predator traps in areas where native birds nest.

Although modest, Mill Stream is a main tributary of Lake Hayes. Small creeks like this can play a key role in providing critical habitat to native wildlife and feeding clean water into lakes. So the team knew the significance of getting the riparian restoration programme underway. They planted natives including pūrei, harakeke, toetoe, and kōwhai.

Riparian planting around streams and waterways on the course.
Millbrook’s landscaping team planting Swamp Flax, Pittosporums, Broadleaves and Juncus.

This enhanced wetland habitat provides a haven for native birdlife. Thanks to habitat restoration and predator control, the course experienced their first sightings of two kārearea (New Zealand falcon) chicks successfully fledging. This spurred the team to expand their invasive predator control across the course.

Kārearea / New Zealand falcon chicks.


Helpful neighbours

Millbrook couldn’t have achieved this transformation without support from local volunteers and trapping groups. They team sought trapping advice from local Predator Free Arrowtown.  The skilled community group helped Millbrook build a  network of 30 traps which, given its neighbourly location on Arrowtown’s boundary, has added to Predator Free Arrowtown’s already impressive reach. The goal is to significantly slow the flow of predators into the area, giving native animals some breathing room to recover from introduced predators.

Stoat traps

Their score card

Millbrook’s predator control and habitat restoration programme has engaged and motivated the course management team, locals, visitors, and members. United by their common cause of allowing nature to flourish, the team has achieved big wins including:

  1. increased native birdlife including water birds such as pūkeko and pūtangitangi (paradise ducks), as well as tūī and korimako (bellbird)
  2. improved water quality
  3. a course more reflective of Aotearoa New Zealand’s magnificent beauty and unique native plants and animals
  4. a more enjoyable and beautiful place to stay, play and work.

Future proofing

This ambitious team is not done yet. The Millbrook team plans to expand the native riparian corridor running through Millbrook and increase the number of traps they use. Superintendent, James O’Malley, would also like to get more staff and members involved in the programme following all the enthusiasm and support from the local community and Predator Free Arrowtown.

With the eyes of the international golfing world on the course next March, the Millbrook team are excited to showcase the success of all the locals – feathered, finned or walking on two legs and swinging a club.